With the vital presidential election a little over three months away, thousands of young people are awaiting the chance to exercise their right to vote for the very first time.
You’ve been following the candidates’ every move and know their positions on all the issues. While it is good you’re prepared, here are five things first-time voters should also know before the big day.
Voters arrive at a polling place to cast ballots in Clinton, Wis.
1. Am I registered?
Yes, voting is a constitutional right. However, you must be registered in order to cast your ballot in any election.
It is not uncommon for volunteers from various organizations to be on college campuses helping students register to vote. But if a voter registration form doesn’t present itself to you, then you can register online using sites such as Rock the Vote. While it is possible in some states to register the same day you vote, registration deadlines can range from a month to two weeks before the election, depending on what state you live in.
2. Where do I vote?
Schools, homes or community centers can all be used as designated places for voting. Signs will make these places visible the day of the election, but you need to find the correct polling place for you.
Start with a website like Vote 411. You simply enter your address and the site will provide you with the address of the nearest polling place. Also make note of the times the polling sites open and close.
3. What kind of ID do I need to bring?
Changes in voter identification requirements in dozens of states have been making headlines for months. Many states that play a critical role in presidential elections have enacted stricter laws that require voters to present a photo ID before they can vote.
Some think these laws could have a negative effect on turnout among young voters.
Check out your state’s voter identification requirements and make sure you have the necessary identification come November — especially if the state in which you attend school and your home state are not the same place.
4. What else is on the ballot?
Of course, the national focus of the 2012 election is on who will be the commander-in-chief for the next four years, but certain ballots will also include various measures to be voted on as well as members of Congress up for re-election. Know what is going on locally and statewide so you can cast an informed ballot.
5. When is Election Day?
You may already know this, but just in case — Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Mark your calendars.
Voting for the first time can be both intimidating and liberating.
While voting is a very serious responsibility, inviting a friend or two to come cast their vote also can make the experience memorable and fun.
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